By Andrew Stark
The Newcastle Knights overcame an indifferent opening half hour to ultimately run out comfortable 50-22 winners over North Sydney in stiflingly hot and humid conditions at Central Charlestown.
The game began well for the Bears and was just four minutes old when Cameron McInnes dived over from dummy half. The Knights wiped the deficit at the 18th minute mark when their own hooker Chad Redman found the in goal turf following a prolonged period of dogged Newcastle attack.
Having just wiped the early deficit, the home side then managed to undo their good work by proceeding to make a hash of catching the kick off; from the ensuing Norths scrum win, a swift sweep right saw Kane Morgan chime in at pace to put Alex Johnston into the far corner. And the Bears were in again five minutes later when another speedy Johnston, this time Curtis, won the race to a nicely weighted Morgan grubber kick.
When McInnes combined with his skipper Jesse Roberts down the right edge, Norths had skipped away to lead 18-6 and appeared to be in complete control.
The injection into the game of big Toka Likiliki and the seasoned Travis Waddell however helped Newcastle seize the late half initiative; the two pivotal bench-starters combining up centre field for a try in the 34th minute, before a crunching Korbin Sims tackle forced a Bears turnover, resulting in a quick shift right for Pat Mata’utia to charge over just two minutes prior to half time.
Norths had dominated the half and yet found themselves leading by just 18-16.
The Knights began the second half full of running and at 47 minutes Pat Mata’utia nabbed his second try of the afternoon after trailing through to dive on an angled Danny Kerr grubber.
Twelve minutes later and Tyler Randell had the Bears defensive line sliding. The Novocastrian pivot feigned to fling the ball wide before deciding that he’d probably prefer to just gallop into the big hole that had opened up before him; the nuggetty playmaker darting 40 metres, untouched to the line.
Newcastle was ahead 28-18 and Norths simply couldn’t find a way to earn themselves an attacking set. Korbin Sims intensified the Bears misery when he unfurled a tunnel ball play in the 66th minute; the aggressive back rower latched onto a ricocheted grubber kick before flicking it back between his pins, straight into the bread basket of an unmarked Chanel Mata’utia.
Newcastle were by now running rampant and with 10 minutes to play the evergreen lock, and team captain Matt Hilder wrestled the ball to the ground after looking certain to be held up. Danny Kerr’s fifth conversion pushed the lead out to twenty.
Curtis Johnston pulled one back for the Bears shortly after however an exhausted defensive line leaked further Knights tries to Brayden Wiliame (75th minute) and James Elias (77th minute) to round out a 50-22 scoreline.
The North Sydney Bears will look to get their season back on track when they take on the undefeated Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve this Saturday; whilst the Newcastle Knights will host the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday.
Newcastle Knights 50 (P Mata’utia 2, C Mata’utia, B Williame, T Randell, T Likiliki, C Redman, M Hilder, J Elias tries; D Kerr 5, H Tuha 2 goals) def. North Sydney Bears 22 (C Johnston 2, C McInnes 2, A Johnston tries; A Gray goal) at St John Oval, Charlestown.